Conflict & Justice

North Korea shows off rocket launch pad rocket to Western press


Two North Korean soldiers stand guard in front of the Unha-3 rocket at Tangachai -ri space center on April 8, 2012.



North Korea has shown off the launch pad it intends to use to send up a satellite on a long-range rocket, a move the US and its allies believe is linked to the reclusive state's nuclear and missile program. 

Officials allowed foreign reporters to visit North Korea's space center ahead of the launch, which they said could take place any time between Thursday and next Monday, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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The US has led other Western nations in urged Pyongyang to cancel the launch, warning that it would violate UN resolutions.

North Korea's last so-called satellite launch, in April 2009, was condemned by the UN Security Council, which demanded that it not be repeated.

North Korean space officials have moved all three stages of the long-range rocket into position for the launch, timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, the Belfast Herald wrote.

The journalists, brought to the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri, in the northwest part of the country, by a special train, reported that it was 100 feet high with a diameter of 8 feet and painted white with sky-blue lettering.

They were brought to within 50 yards, having arrived in the area via a special train.

They were also shown what officials said was the satellite — a 100-kilogram box with five antennae and powered by solar panels.

Reporters were not allowed to take laptops or cell phones to the site, but were permitted to film, according to CNN.

CNN quoted Jang Myong Jin, head of the launch site, as saying through a translator: "If you look for yourselves with your own eyes, then you can judge whether it's a ballistic missile, or whether it's a launch vehicle to put a satellite into orbit. That's why we've invited you to this launch site."

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